They call it kabocha for a reason. Or many reasons, depending whom you ask.
Today, kabocha squash finds itself in the esteemed purview of Japanese vegetal delicacies. But such was not always the case. It was originally brought to Japan from Cambodia by Portuguese explorers in 1541, finding its way into the language through abbreviation from the Portuguese Cambodia abóbora. Thus カンボジャ アボボラ became カボチャ, or, in English transliteration, kabocha. In some regions of the Japan, the Portuguese has been abbreviated differently to just ボボラ, or bobora.
Somewhere along the way (before or after, no one knows), kabocha also took up some sweet Chinese characters – 南瓜, meaning “southern melon”. So I guess that fits with looking like a melon and being from Cambodia, right? Well, it seems there’s another alternative characterisation, in the form of 南京瓜, which means “Nanking melon”. So wait, is it from Cambodia or is it from China? Eternal mysteries of the universe, I know.
It should also be mentioned that many believe all squash to have originated in Mesoamerica.
Furthermore, all of this information was gleaned from the lovely and inimitable Wikipedia, so add that extra layer of uncertainty to the mix.
Luckily, you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy kabocha. Because it is delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I would go so far as to coronate it as monarch of all squash-dom, a veritable emperum of the gourds, the crown princet of the great genus Cucurbita in all its hard-skinned, long-keeping, yellow-orange fleshiness.
All these thoughts, dear Reader, swirled in my mind as I biked home from market on the first Saturday of December, pack-laden with our csa spoils, cradling a gorgeous kabocha squash against the small of my back. And I knew that when I got home, that baby was getting sliced up, tossed with oil and salt, and roasted at 425.
From there, it was a slippery slope to a full-on weekend banquet. Rachel was invited promptly.
There was salad with mustard greens, hakurei turnips, radishes. There was the last of some bread I had baked the day before. There was a lot of fresh ricotta from the farm left over from the Fall pizza season. There were the herbs left over from making salves at the farm, preserved in olive oil (the most delicious thing – crunchy, aromatic, savoury. So far they’ve found their way into eggs, sandwiches, salads, and on a whole lot of canapés). There were the seeds roasted with spices, the preserved figs I made a while back, butter, preserves, tahini, honey.
Let the feasting begin.
Can we get a close-up of that??
The fig and the squash together, that was Rachel’s idea. This is why we’re friends.
You can probably tell by this photo, but one of the best things about kabocha squash, aside from its luminous colour and incredible, earthy-sweet flavour, is its texture. It is, truly, like eating pudding and velvet. Especially while still warm from the oven. Topping that with ricotta cheese, figs, herbs, and crunchy seeds does things in my brain that I don’t even want to know about. Not to mention adding homemade bread to the mix.
Brandon came down and hung out and had some squash too. We talked about modular arithmetic and the Voynich manuscript (which turns out to be in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale). The day was bright and cool-warm. We made tea and time passed.